The press conference at Crenshaw High School was, more or less, what I expected it to be. As you can see to the right, the most surprising thing was the amount of mainstream press at the event.
The collection of supporters was quite impressive. More than a dozen teachers were in attendance, a staggering number considering that Crenshaw was still in session for summer school at the time of the press conference. Members of the community were there, including various pastors and preachers, as well as members of community groups, parent groups and student leaders. All of the speakers outlined, in varying detail, Crenshaw’s plan.
Ah, yes! The plan. Teachers at Crenshaw have been developing a reform plan for quite some time. This past year, they began collecting signatures from supporters of this plan. According to their statements, over 80% of faculty signed by June, and over 600 parents and community members have given written support. Their plan does not seem earth-shattering, or even extravagant. While some of the plan’s details can be found after the jump, the gist of it is that Crenshaw is seeking autonomy from LAUSD. Not independence, mind you, for that would be more like Locke High’s desire to convert to a charter school. No, Crenshaw wants decision-making power.
The district is not keen on letting schools decide their own day-to-day operations (the fact that Locke took the extreme step of secession should be a big clue). Combine this aforementioned fact with these: Crenshaw’s accreditation is consistently in doubt; their principal just wrapped up her very first year as an administrator; and the district has a history of heavy-handed, if not downright shady, dealings with Crenshaw faculty. To many teachers at Crenshaw, LAUSD seems like a cat-stroking super-villain.
According to my sources at the school, complaints run from the banal to the soul-crushing.
Issue #1: While many schools have moved to small learning communities (with LAUSD’s blessing and support), Crenshaw leadership has been told, in so many words, that they should focus on accreditation first, SLC’s later. Teachers at Crenshaw argue that moving to SLC’s would fulfill the accreditation requirements by enhancing and personalizing the learning experience for the students.
Issue #2: Earlier this year, around the start of the spring semester, I started hearing complaints from teachers at Crenshaw about their copiers. Due to a “budgeting error” there were no working photocopiers on campus available to the teachers. The union’s chapter chair filed a complaint, as the school was therefore in violation of the California Education Codes. As of yet, there are still no working copiers.
Issue #3: District and administrative oversight is necessary. As a teacher, I know full well that awful teachers make good teachers look bad. At Crenshaw, however, there was some grumbling among the faculty this year that some teachers’ evaluations did not go “by the book” and were consequently asked to leave. Whether this was due to malice, incompetence, or accident is still up for debate. Regardless of the reason, schools like Crenshaw can hardly afford to lose teachers, especially good ones. From what I’ve been told, one of these teachers had received a commendation from the school board earlier that year for excellence. Go figure.
Anyhow, the list of complaints goes on and on. Surely there are also issues only being discussed in-house.
As for their plan, they want to establish small learning communities (issue #1, check), oversight over budgets (issue #2, check), and decision-making power over who they hire and fire (issue #3, check). It appears that if they can attain all of these things, then the cause of their complaints would shift away from the district. If these problems didn’t get fixed, they would have no one left to blame but themselves. Good luck, Crenshaw. You’ll need it.